Sheffield United interim boss Paul Heckingbottom has backed Rhian Brewster to come good at Bramall Lane, but admits the young striker’s spell in South Yorkshire has so far not worked out as he would have hoped.
Brewster was captured for £23m from Liverpool last summer following a stunning loan spell at Swansea City, where he netted 11 goals in 22 games.
The Swans were reportedly interested in bringing him back to the Liberty Stadium at the end of that season, but given the level of Premier League interest and indeed the money involved, a return always seemed unlikely.
After shining so brightly in the second tier, a move to the Premier League was arguably the next logical step for the striker, particularly given his slim chances of a first team breakthrough at Anfield.
However, having mostly been used from the bench this season Brewster is yet to find the net for the Blades, who after a disastrous campaign are bottom of the table and now destined to return to the Championship
Chris Wilder, the man who brought Brewster to the club has since departed, and has also been criticised by the hierarchy over his decision to sign the Englishman on a permanent basis.
Interim boss Heckingbottom says the striker himself would admit that the move hasn’t yet met expectations, but says the 21-year old will start reaping rewards if he continues to work hard.
“Rhian did great at Swansea, earned his move and he’ll be the first to say it’s not worked out as well as he would have hoped,” he told the Sheffield Star.
“But he understands that and the league. He’s been at big clubs and understands how tough it is, and what top players do and how hard they work.
“The sacrifices they have to make to get in the team and be a top player.
“If he approaches things right, and we keep pushing him on these details and makes sure he understands that it’s only hard work that’ll get him to the top, then he’ll come back stronger for it.”
Incredibly, Swansea could end up overtaking Brewster should they earn promotion to the Premier League this season.
Whether the Swans would in such an instance be willing to give him a second chance in the top flight remains a distant hypothetical, but he is understood to have enjoyed his time in south Wales working under boss Steve Cooper.
On the flipside, given his record in the second tier, United will be hoping that Brewster can spearhead a challenge to return to the top flight at the first attempt, with Heckingbottom hinting that the former Liverpool loanee still has a future in South Yorkshire.
“Rhian is a bright character. He’s bubbly and I really like his energy,” Heckingbottom said.
“You can have good conversations with him, about football or anything, and he’s got a smile on his face.
“I love the phrase ‘you’re only as good as your strikers’ for lots of reasons.
“We haven’t, as a club, been able to nail those partnerships this season. It’s there for everyone to see. So it’s a key thing in our thinking going forward.
“I don’t pick a team on name, on age or anything that’s gone on before. It’s who deserves to play. And one thing I really like about Rhian is that he does have an eye for a goal and he gets shots off, but he’s got to earn and understand the other parts of the game that will get him minutes on the pitch.
“And then what I believe are his outstanding qualities can set him apart.”